Tribal Nations Oppose Coquille Casino Project

Efforts by the Coquille Indian Tribe to create a new casino along South Pacific Highway in Medford face opposition from four Tribal Nations based in Northern California and Oregon. The Karuk, Cow Creek, Elk Valley, and Tolowa Dee-ni’ Tribes have united against the Coquille Tribe’s project, drafting a letter to Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland.

A New Casino Could Disrupt the Existing Balance

At the heart of the issue is the Coquille Tribe’s plan to place 2.4 acres of land into trusts through the DOI for the casino project. While this process typically only applies to land near a tribe’s reservation, the proposed site is 150 miles beyond the Coquille Tribe’s reservation. In contrast, the Karuk Tribe’s service area is within 50 miles of the location.

In a letter to DOI Secretary Deb Haaland, four neighboring tribal nations urged her to visit them before issuing an exception to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act for the Coquille Tribe. Speaking for local news outlet KMTR, chair of the Karuk Tribe, Buster Attebery, expressed concerns about the lack of consultation with local tribes regarding the project’s potential economic impacts.

The economic consequences could be huge. It would devastate our ability to provide healthcare, public safety, social services.

Buster Attebery, Karuk Tribe chair 

Attebery emphasized the importance of consulting tribes with ancestral ties to the region, highlighting their millennia of best practices. The four nations opposing the project fear such a high-profile venue could create unnecessary competition and impact their revenue streams. Many tribes rely on their gaming businesses to ensure an adequate standard of living for their members, so Coquille’s project could be considered a hostile action.

The Coquille Tribe’s Efforts Span Several Years

Responding to the rising controversy, Coquille tribal chair Brenda Meade defended the project, citing the Coquille Restoration Act of 1989, authorizing the tribe to take land into trust for economic development within a designated reservation restoration area, including Jackson County. Meade expressed disappointment in the opposition from other tribes, emphasizing the Coquille Tribe’s rights within the reservation restoration area defined by Congress.

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It is heartbreaking to us that other tribes, including tribes in California, continue to attack our sovereignty and seek to limit our economic development rights.

Brenda Meade, Coquille tribal chair

The project for a Medford casino previously faced significant opposition from Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, wh bet646 o expressed concerns that the venue would negatively impact all of Oregon’s tribes and lead to a proliferation of gambling. Despite Kotek’s stance, the final decision rests with DOI, which previously rejected the Coquille Tribe’s effort.

As the dispute continues, the fate of the Coquille Tribe’s casino project hangs in the balance, with opposing Tribal Nations advocating for their sovereignty and economic interests in the region. While the new project technically meets the legal requirements, its implications and long-term impact have sparked ongoing debates that could reshape Oregon’s gaming landscape.